The following is a guest post from Burt Rosen, chief marketing officer at HealthSparq.
I don’t think there is an industry that has elicited more “WTFs”, “OMGs” and other choice expletives than healthcare. Unfortunately, you can’t walk five feet without hearing a story of frustration, woe or anger. Sadly, it’s the norm, not the exception.
But, without the stories, how would we know what’s actually going on, and how we can fix it? If the parents who were charged $39.95 for "skin to skin” contact" never talked about it, how would it get noticed?
#WhatTheHealthCare is a campaign focused on people and on humanizing the inhuman experience that is healthcare. People are sharing outrageous stories on Twitter and Facebook that highlight the many problems that need to be fixed in our current health care system. It’s here to bring issues to light, to inject some humor when appropriate and to drive real change.
The healthcare industry pays lip service to consumerism, but is only now starting to figure out what that really means. There are countless industry conferences that focus on “consumerism.” I challenge you to find a consumer in the room. There are no “off the street” people to represent the everyman who has to deal with the system. They’re just halls filled with healthcare industry people talking only to healthcare industry people. They’re talking about critical healthcare topics, but they’re not talking to the people who need the help. This gaping hole in the way the industry operates is the inspiration behind #WhatTheHealthCare, and people are using it as an opportunity to communicate to those who are actually willing to listen.
These ridiculous and infuriating stories come from all types of people from providers to patients, editors and technology industry leaders. The common thread lies in a desire to find fixes.
Part of bringing the humanity into healthcare is also making it more accessible and emotionally relatable. While there are a lot of sad stories, there are also opportunities to inject some humor to help illustrate some of the issues. Medical bill headaches? Check. Figuring out what that appointment will cost you? Check. Lack of empathy? Check, check, check. A little humor can certainly help fix what ails healthcare, if not make it more human.
So what are we hearing, and who is speaking out through #WhatTheHealthCare, you ask?
- Stories range from experiencing zero empathy from a provider, to lack of communication among specialists, to people receiving ridiculous medical bills for seemingly simple procedures.
- Chronic illness patients are using the hashtag to illustrate that navigating their healthcare experience is basically a part time job.
- People are advocating for themselves as patients like never before – and calling out inefficiencies in the system that could be potentially dangerous for their health.
- Cost plays a huge role in #WhatTheHealthCare stories. From outrageous pharmaceutical prices to unexplainable surprise medical bills – people are constantly asking, “Why?”
What can the healthcare industry learn from these stories, to actually make things better? The need for fixes are endless, but here are some ideas inspired by the stories being shared:
- Doctors can commit to asking patients smarter questions and taking the space to listen and truly understand.
- Industry leaders and executives can invite patients to big conferences so that they can present their perspectives and complaints in front of the people with the power to actually change things.
- Administrators can create new and improved channels to solicit patient feedback and look for fixes in response.
- Hold each other accountable and commit to actually doing something about the many problems people face with health care everyday.
Here are a few examples of the incredible (and infuriating) stories being shared:
#WHATTHEHEALTHCARE went to my Ortho Dr for F/U on hip fracture. I was asked over $200. Used to be incl. w/surgery bill! I nearly fainted!— Rhia Steele (@ravishingrhia) January 8, 2017
Been on hold for 30+ minutes trying to speak to someone about my healthcare plan. #WhatTheHealthcare— Woody Roseland (@WoodyRoseland) January 27, 2017
Waiting for surgery, "patient advocate" announced "you can all expect to wait for hours, our doctors are busy" #whatthehealthcare— Jack Barrette (@healthyjack) December 16, 2016
Back when I saw double, my eye doctor said "your vision seems fine to me". My neurologist told me I had a brain tumor #whatthehealthcare— Heidi Gottlieb (@heidilifecoach) December 14, 2016
Most of us get into this industry to help fix it, but at the moment, healthcare can feel like a burdensome and stubborn beast with no real solutions in sight. Ultimately the goal of #WhatTheHealthCare is to create a grassroots movement with the power to not only change the way people approach their own healthcare, but to also impact the way the industry operates altogether.
It won’t happen overnight, but the goal is to make sure those real stories are understood and heard by the industry, and beyond. The next step for us is using those stories to make direct change, and continuing to communicate with others that have the power to make that change a reality.